By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal
With National Chamber of Commerce Week approaching on September, 19-23, many people either have a misconception of chambers or don’t know exactly what it is that they do.
Like all chambers, the La Habra Area Chamber of Commerce is a form of a business network organization whose goal is to further the interests of businesses.
The La Habra Chamber has been doing that for the local business community for 102 years.
Mark Sturdevant, president of the La Habra Chamber, explained that the chamber is a membership group that exists to help the local business community.
From networking to local government advocacy, the chamber works to provide options and opportunities to businesses according to Sturdevant.
“We create platforms for businesses,” Sturdevant said. “The business can choose what it is that they want.”
The platforms that Sturdevant mentioned are what the chamber offers its members. He explained it can be customized to passive or aggressive, depending on what the business owner feels he or she needs.
Members are listed in the Life in La Habra magazine, which is mailed out to every resident in La Habra. They are also on the website as a member.
Sturdevant explained this is the more passive approach. However, business owners can become more active and aggressive in the chamber as they see fit.
They take part in networking mixers. The weekly Connect Up at Corner Bakery on Thursday mornings, the occasional lunch mobs, where members go out to lunch at one of the member restaurants.
They can take part in training or presentations at the Chamber’s Enterprise group. Members or business trainers come and give presentations each week. According to Sturdevant, this is a way to let others really understand your business.
“It comes down to one thing….sales,” Sturdevant said “If you don’t get sales, you won’t be in business. If it’s profitable is up to you.”
He added that the chamber understands this and works to provide opportunities to businesses that could, in turn, help sales.
The La Habra Chamber is one of the founding members of the Chamber Business Alliance, which is a group of six chambers. The CBA is an example of the trend in understanding that sales don’t stop at city borders. Customers can come from anywhere and it is in the best interest of chambers to find ways to collaborate.
The current members of the CBA are LH, Brea, Yorba Linda, Placenta, La Mirada and Artesia, with the possibility of more chambers joining.
The CBA allows networking opportunities with businesses in outer cities.
“You might not make a sale right there,” Sturdevant said. “But it could provide benefits long term.”
As a non-governmental institution, a chamber of commerce has no direct role in the writing and passage of laws and regulations that affect businesses.
The La Habra Chamber has built a collaborative relationship with the city government, one that is built on mutual respect, according to Sturdevant.
“We aren’t looking for combat,” he said. “We’re looking to get things done.”
Another area that the Chamber works is with the community. Sturdevant understands the importance of children in building and fostering relationships in a community.
He started a junior ambassadors program at the Chamber, where high school students can work with the chamber and join the Goodwill Ambassadors to go out and meet with businesses and become advocates for the local business industry.
He also worked with La Habra High School and its MBA program where students are able to learn from and shadow local business professionals on how to run businesses and the secrets to their success.
The Chamber also works to help foster young entrepreneurs and will hear their proposals in a “Shark Tank” like forum, all for the purpose of training the local youth on the importance of business.
The chamber also provides scholarships to each of the three high schools in the city. This is to help recognize those students who show promise in business.
Another way the Chamber helps promote community is by putting on the annual Citrus Fair in La Habra. The event has grown into a large spring event, encompassing not just business, but education and fun as well.
Sturdevant also pointed out that the chamber focuses on the Shop La Habra campaigns, twice a year. Everyone is encouraged to bring their receipts from La Habra businesses to the chamber and trade them in for raffle tickets.
He added that there have been more than $1.5 million in total receipts turned in. He looks to keep encouraging people to spend money at La Habra businesses.
Since there is a Chamber of Commerce week, it’s good to understand what exactly a chamber does for the local communities and why there is a week of recognition.
“We make introductions to people,” Sturdevant explained. “We try to learn about the businesses, what they do, what do they want. And in the end, we all want what’s best for businesses and the community.”